Table Talk

Tuesday 29 July 2014

The taste of home is emotional when you're living abroad

Niall Horan made sure to have the makings of a fry in his dressing room last weekend but how much significance does the taste of home really have to emigrants?

Patricia Murphy

Published 26/05/2014|18:11

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Niall Horan made sure to have Clonakilty sausages in his dressing room upon returning home last weekend
"My sister and I revelled in the rare opportunity to dig our little fingers into salty packets of Taytos"

One Direction’s Niall Horan had simple requests upon touching down in Ireland for last weekend’s trio of concerts in Croke Park despite his worldly adventures and well stamped passport.

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After a recent stint in South America, the boy from Mullingar had eyes for nothing else but a good fry and a proper cuppa, requesting that Clonakilty sausages and Barry’s tea feature on his dressing room shopping list for his stint in the national stadium.

One may have expected the requests to be a bit more luxurious but any Irish person who has lived abroad will be familiar with the longing for a taste of home and seemingly Niall is not so different from the rest of us.

Growing up with Irish parents in New York for the first decade of my life, many of my early food memories are associated with Ireland despite being so far away.

My sister and I revelled in the rare opportunity to dig our little fingers into salty packets of Taytos, mostly given to keep us happy (and quiet) on those early mornings spent watching The Sunday Game in far away Queens. Decked out in our GAA jerseys, we sat in a corner with a dozen other children sharing bottles of Nash’s, our mouths happily orange stained as a pub full of Irish had their eyes transfixed on Croke Park.

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Each summer, she and I would spend months in Ireland, maintaining our puppy fat with sausages, toasted Barry’s bread lathered with real Irish butter and hundreds of mugs of milky tea, sucking back 99s like they were going out of fashion. Touching down in JFK in late August our pockets full of penny sweets, we knew it would be another year before we could have our favourite things again... to have a taste of home.

Years later, after spending my teens in Co. Kerry, I moved to Prague for an Erasmus stint, disheartened by the quality of food available from the local supermarkets and even the restaurant fayre. Although I had one of the best times of my life, I often dreamt of creamy pints of Irish milk and my dad’s Saturday morning fry-up with eggs from our own chickens. When the snow started to fall, I tried to emulate my nana’s beef stew but it wasn’t the same without the Guinness and instead of comforting me, it sent me into a spiral of insatiable hunger for that taste of home.

When I arrived home from Prague, I was bursting with so many wonderful experiences, but the desire to surround myself in all of the foods that I love was overwhelming. My first week back in the country was a happy blur of simple Irish gorging and I regret not a single calorie.

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I am not alone in my experience of frenzied feasting upon returning to the country. A friend of mine once arrived into Dublin on an early flight and had absolutely no shame in strolling up to Supermacs in Heuston Station at 10.30am to order a taco fries for the train journey back west. When you’ve been abroad, eating decorum flies out the window in favour of scoffing and there’s no shame in that.

Friends who have emigrated to the Middle East, Australia, Canada and the US revel in the arrival of those care packages, brimming with crisps, beans, tea bags, newspapers and sweets because they have a lot more meaning than you’d think. Food is emotional and eating something that awakens memories of your home will always have a greater significance.

Niall Horan has probably been sipping champagne and eating in some of the world’s best restaurants throughout the ‘Where We Are’ Tour but nothing beats the taste of home. I hope he savoured that homecoming fry as much as the rest of us because it’s important to remember that no matter where we are in the world it isn’t far from sausages we were reared.

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